The IT on Academic Blogging Post author By Karl Whelan Post date February 24, 2012 A bit self-referential perhaps but readers might be interested in this Irish Times article on academic blogging. Categories In Economics Tags Blogs 31 Comments on The IT on Academic Blogging ← Eviction in Ireland in 2012: I stopped the sheriff → Central Bank Appoints New Chief Economist 31 replies on “The IT on Academic Blogging” I never thought I’d write this but what a well-researched, comprehensive article (presumably by a staffer) in an Irish broadsheet. Perhaps all the effort here is having some salutary benefit of raising standards a little across the board. Let’s hope its infectious. Unfortunately, however, and despite all the effort, most of the major optical illusions projected and sustained by government and the government-machine have not been shattered. It may be that those with the ability to do so are some how compromised and conflicted. I’m glad he referred to the Republic of Letters. Letter writing is the supreme form of debate. It has the informality of blogging, and the scope for reproofing also. But it is also better than blogging in that it has a tight audience, who can be addressed personally and at a level tailored to them. For both reasons, the recipient is much more likely to read and absorb the content. Indeed, all my blogs have become a record of letters sent to various people and bodies over the years. Nice article though I’m not sure it compensates for Conor Brady’s piece in which he referred to p.ie as a forum for intelligent debate. Nice to see some recognition of this blog, and lovely to see plenty of references to Crooked Timber. [As an aside: Crooked Timber’s comments section is much better than here. Maybe there are selection effects in terms of visitors and so on, but I imagine their policing of the comments it is the dominant factor. Would you/Philip/whoever consider a trial period of deleting abusive and/or nonsensical comments?] @ Enda H Agreed. What I like most about the comments section on Crooked Timber is the rational open exchange of competing views. I have stopped reading a lot of the comments on Irish economy because most of the time it is anonymous posters slinging mud at each other. The problem with this, from my experience, is the readership (over time) becomes narrower and narrower with the end result that no alternative voices or opinions are aired. For Irish economy to develop into an intellectual resource it has to facilitate the open exchange of competing economic perspectives. @Aidan R ‘..I have stopped reading a lot of the comments on Irish economy because most of the time it is anonymous posters slinging mud at each other..’ Pot and kettle immediately spring to mind Mr. R I believe. @Aidan R, “For Irish economy to develop into an intellectual resource it has to facilitate the open exchange of competing economic perspectives.” Most of the main contributors here are probably constrained because they major in macroeconomic monetary or fiscal matters. But there does seem to be a consensus subscribing to the ‘labour theory of costs’. And we do get sniping from the ‘left’ as they, holding tight to their out-dated ideological baggage and cherished ‘household gods’ and protecting their own favoured rent-seeking ‘insiders’, invariably miss the point – and their intended targets. But the limited interaction on issues that drill down into the economy below the macro level is very useful and appreciated – at least by me. It does seem, however, that quite a few people are constrained or conflicted when it comes to discussing these matters. @Aidan R Just to note on the most recent post on CT there are currently 84 comments and scanning down through them I’d estimate c50 are written by anonymous posters and the language used in comment 64 is particularly charming. Not exactly the CT you describe above? Academics are effectively independent agents but still the number that post here is low. Interestingly, there are only rare contributions from ESRI staff and rarer since Richard Tol moved on. The ESRI held a press briefing yesterday on the latest Quarterly Economic Commentary but no staff member has bothered making a post here. Most contributors are anonymous and that can be for a number of reasons including not to be seen as being on the doss during the workday. A small number use the facility of anonymity to reveal their true selves. Apart from that type, why are so many reluctant to be identified with views on economic issues? – – after all it’s not sex. @ Sarah Carey Conor Brady seemed to have been struggling for balance. What would have been more credible would have been an acknowledgement that print journalists do source information/material from online-only sources and more often than not without attribution. @ Paul Hunt “Quite a few people are constrained or conflicted when it comes to discussing these matters…because they major in macro or monetary matters” Yes, quite true I suppose. And I agree that the level of analysis from the ‘left’ (in Ireland anyway) is relatively archaic. But the consensus view on a labour theory of costs is crucial. I am reminded of what Joan Robinson once said when reflecting on the ‘theory of profits’: ‘Marx had everything to say on this but strangely enough orthodox economists have nothing to say about it, all they have is a peculiar marginal productivity theory’. In short, economists (and the political left) do not have a theory of distribution – the very topic that occupies the minds of people whom economics is supposed to enlighten. This is reflected in the paucity of analysis on the employment crisis. @ Enda “Would you/Philip/whoever consider a trial period of deleting abusive and/or nonsensical comments?” I think most of those who write original posts here have deleted various comments over time. However, the insistence of various characters to appear again and again, making the same points, is fairly extraordinary. So no amount of deleting and warnings are able to stop certain people posting nonsensical monetary theories, or conspiracy theories about people being scared to speak out, or insisting at every turn that academics are lazy and mendacious dilettantes just out to feather their own caps. I think any effort to stem the tide would be Canute-like, even if we had the time to do it, which we don’t. Ultimately, I think a blog has to be judged on whether its posts and pointers to articles and information are a useful resource. So I don’t judge other blogs (e.g. the excellent Calculated Risk) by the quality of their comments. Higher numbers of comments are a byproduct of high readership and with high numbers of comments, one inevitably starts to get crazy stuff. Though, that said, I do think the extent of criticism of contributers (and questioning of their integrity) is far higher here than on other blogs. @Aidan R, When I speak of a ‘labour theory of cost’ it is a tongue-in-cheek description who seem to see labour as the only input to the production of goods and the delivery of services – and that efficiency means bringing the cost of this imput down (without considering inputs which some how magically are being provide efficiently). But you’re right about the absence of a ‘theory of distribution’. During the period of the post-war social demcoratic settlement (and its social market alternative), politicians and policy-makers were reluctant to reveal the extent to which financial repression was financing this. Following the inevitable reaction to this from the mid 70s’ the neocons (and their useful idiot neoliberal friends) were reluctant to reveal the increase in wage repression. The 99%ers have highlighted it, but it all seems hust a bit too difficult to get to the bottom of it. Karl Whelan: “…criticism of contributers (and questioning of their integrity) is far higher here than on other blogs.” From what I’ve seen that stuff comes from just a few cranks. Most mice have scroll-wheels which make it easy to flick past their comments. I know this isn’t the place for it, but this latest OECD report should be worth a look: http://www.oecd.org/document/4/0,3746,en_2649_37443_49693508_1_1_1_37443,00.html Oh – here comes the precious academics ….. God Help us & save us. Don’t know what the problem is – I am quite clearly a Dork. @Karl I have never trusted a single Central banker – it has served me in Good stead so far although eventually I will come a cropper. You just can’t beat yee guys over the long term as yee control the money supply & thus have ultimate power. The “right and proper” phrase from Brian Lucey was quite something and described the mindset of Central bankers perfectly. It will stick in my little head for a long long time. One IT journalist I admire, and who dislikes the blogosphere, is railing against the visit of the Chinese delegation today, on the grounds of human rights. Yet China is the E.U.’s 2nd biggest trade partner and one of the U.S.A.’s main trade partner. Sometimes the bloggers can be closer to the target than other sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_trading_partners_of_the_European_Union For some time Ireland is already in business with China, via the E.U. @karl Canute’s difficulties were purely topological 🙂 Further back, towards the sand dunes, just between the seawedped deposit arc and the sharp grass, he could have claimed success. Sure isn’t that what separates the polio from the demagogues. Iconoclasm, the innovation Ireland most lacks. No Alcibiades wandering around Baggot Street regrettably. @Aidan R In short, economists (and the political left) do not have a theory of distribution This is nonsense. There is an enormous literature on e.g. the optimal trade-off between efficiency and equity. It’s technical and thus not generally taught to undergrads, but it is wide and typically permits just about any value judgments you wish to make. You’re welcome to pick holes in the theory or make additions, but it’s nonsense to say it doesn’t exist. @Karl W All reasonable. Fair enough if it’s more painstaking than I imagine, and I’m obviously not privy to what goes on in the background, but I don’t think it’d hurt if you banned a few of the bad apples. In my head, the “you’re all overpaid arseholes” crowd and the likes of The Dork are polluting the airwaves with negative value contributions. There’s an argument about free speech, but this is Philip’s personal website and he’s welcome to ask annoying patrons to leave. Anyway, I like to combat the pollution with encouraging messages: keep up the good work. “Enda H “you’re all overpaid arseholes” crowd I believe I follow this excelent site very closely but I am not aware (regardless of the wide range of,usually, well argued opinions) that offensive language gets past the moderators regardless of how heated a debate gets. As for the Dork I agree his opinions are often incomprehensible (to me) but at other times they are thought provoking even if I do not agree with many of them. So on balance I fail to see how his contribution can be “negative value”. As for “polluting the airwaves” , if you consider the sort of vindictive, frightening and offensive garbage that makes itś way on to other discussion forums on the internet I am sure you would agree with me that even the Dork would find what you have written to be slightly “annoying”. IMHO the moderators do an excellent job of blocking inappropriate content and leaves the rest up to us to excercise our discretion as to whether we read particular commments or “scroll on by” any contributions made by “annoying patrons”. I agree with you completely about the argument for free speech but if the privilege is exercised appropriately than IMHO there is no harm in it and we probably benefit from opinions and viewpints which are not similar to ours.:-) Best…L Thanks Livonian…… I think. I really wish I could just go back and play with my train sets but I can’t when I see such obvious money / credit / leverage crimes. Studying Lyons Public transport now……… I want to cry with delight when I see such beautiful & elegant connections (its JCTs hometown I believe) – why no Public transport forums on this site anymore ? – is it just because of me or the fact we have no money ? Maybe if we got some monopoly money & just pretend like………. Karl – like you, I am happy to read sites, regardless of the quality of commenters. And when you have a lot of commenters, maintaining order is genuinely hard work. That said, if you ever do decide to opt for a more active moderation policy, Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s guidelines here are the gold standard as far as I am concerned (and have been very helpful to me as one of the moderators at Crooked Timber). Enda H “it’s nonsense to say it doesn’t exist (a theory of distribution)” Then I guess the whole objective of the Cambridge post-Keynesian revival is a waste of time? I am not saying that there is nothing related to a theory of distribution in orthodox economic textbooks (or economists don’t have an opinion on it). It is just not possible to make out what exactly it means. Why? Because they don’t have a coherent theory of profit. Everything is reduced to a marginal productivity theory of value in a hypothetical equilibrium based market (try talk about planning in an economics seminar and see the reaction). @Aidan R Then I guess the whole objective of the Cambridge post-Keynesian revival is a waste of time? Where are you getting that from? You said we don’t have a theory of distribution. I said we have plenty, and that you’re welcome to critique them. I didn’t say a lot more than that. Google Bergson-Samuelson for a sense of how distribution can be abstracted from the market allocation without much reference to productivity at all. Bergson-Samuelson isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it will give you a sense of the topic. Aside: I think you’re grossly exaggerating economists’ view on planning. Almost all macro models I was taught in the first year of my PhD program started off with “Okay, here’s the benevolent social planner’s solution to this problem; let’s see how the decentalised version differs.” And hey I’m even starting a paper now/first sketch done where a benevolent (fiscal) planner solving the problem achieves both higher taxes and higher social surplus than the market solution. Us economists aren’t that afraid of planning! @Livonian I believe I follow this excelent site very closely but I am not aware (regardless of the wide range of,usually, well argued opinions) that offensive language gets past the moderators regardless of how heated a debate gets. My remark wasn’t in reference to the bad language, but rather the people who come on and attack the poster and not the post. There doesn’t need to be bad language for it to be abuse, see for example “Oh – here comes the precious academics ….. God Help us & save us.” As for the Dork … on balance I fail to see how his contribution can be “negative value”. Then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I enjoy a bit of disagreement and a debate (see me politely scrapping with Aidan R above!) but I think there are people out there whose contributions are just annoying. I’m sure Dork has the snippet of wisdom now and again but after reading a large sample he is now mostly he’s on mute to me. As I said, I’ve no problem with the likes of Aidan/opposing views, but that’s not what I’m suggesting Karl et al remove. You guys do a great job, I follow several academics for my news. But, how come not one of you guys spoke out about the China visit in a way that openly questioned China’s human rights violations? Which one of you, 2 years ago, blogged that NAMA was too complex and would not recoup even half the 71 billion? Which one of you has a reputation for always asking the question ‘where is the social dividend’? No takers on all the above. You are the ones with the microphone (blogs), do you want to use it to regurgitate facts, or to stir something up? See my blog, for unashamed emotion and imagination. certainly components of that extra 10% I know some of you must be looking for. (easy for me to say- I give my stuff away. Poet economics – endless supply no demand, mmmmm qualifies me to work for NAMA?) @Michael Hennigan, “A small number use the facility of anonymity to reveal their true selves. Apart from that type, why are so many reluctant to be identified with views on economic issues? – – after all it’s not sex.” Careful now or you’ll have Karl beating you up for spreading conspiracy theories about economists being too scared to speak out. But surely he can see that he is among very few contributors here you try to call it as it is. Yet they are hordes of other academic and non-academic, practising economists, who, I’m sure, read this blog, but refuse to engage. It really struck me on the thread on the state asset privatisation. One would think that this would have generated a bit of debate and engagemnt among the professional economists. My position is that any programme of privatsiation that doesn’t have economic efficiency as its primary objective is almost certain to end up creating a costly mess. The programme advanced by the Government has absolutely no focus on economic efficiency. Indeed it goes precisely in the opposite direction. Yet, so far as I can see, not a peep from any of the academic or non-academic professional economists. If the Government advances a programme that preserves the existing gloriously inefficient and consumer and economy-damaging status quo – and there isn’t a peep from the leading economists, then what is one supposed to think? @ Karl Whelan ‘A bit self-referential perhaps but readers might be interested….’ Indeed Karl. There is a tide in the affairs of blogs! And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures! Karl’s use of the term ‘self-referential’ strikes a chord. And the IT article, while rambling and somewhat less than immediately ‘actionable’, raises important questions about the future of irisheconomy.ie. Having enjoyed, learned from and contributed to this blog over the last year or so as well as attending the ‘Croke Park’ conference at end January, may I suggest that it is time this medium took a good, hard look at its future. Without getting into the arcanities (sic) of strategic marketing or SWOT analyses, it seems to me that this site is no longer clear about: What it’s for Who it’s for How it intends to evolve, for whom and by whom. A little while ago a commenter ( non-eu, I believe) expressed the view that a ‘re-boot’ of this site was required, as well as a clearer statement of purpose, ( more specific than ‘providing commentary and information on the Irish economy’), SHORT, concise guidelines for content, contributors and commenters, and clearer ownership/management. I believe that there is considerable potential for this site to capture meaningful input internationally and influence economic policy in Ireland and beyond through the blog itself, its ‘community’ and ancillary activities but that a rigorous review of its future direction is necessary. If the objective is not to go beyond the ‘self-referential’, I fear that interest will dwindle, certainly from outside Ireland. Bonne continuation. I did my bit for encouraging new and constructive engagement below: http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2012/02/08/corporate-balance-sheet-adjustment/#comments Enda H With respect, I think blaming the Dork for the quality of comments on this site, (Im not necessarily agreeing with the premise that the comments arent of a high quality), misses the point. The Dork rarely derails threads. Id imagine the crooked timber comments section is better as its more widely read, and broader in topics covered, whereas this is far more specific in whats up for debate. (Im not complaining, thats in its nature) Id also disagree with the contention that its due to a more heavy handed moderation, CT allows a wide range of voices, especially from the left, that other sites ignore or caricature (see above) Maybe your right that more moderation might improve it, but so might encouraging people outside of mainstream economics to engage with the posts @Gavin Kostick “I did my bit for encouraging new and constructive engagement below:” Putting templates of words into some semi-lucid structure using a random number approach eh? You are clearly cut out for a career in journalism where all you have to do is take several press releases (and other existing articles found on Google) on the same subject, rip out the odd line here and there from each of them and then claim it as your own IP and leave a sub-editor to tidy it up and remove the spelling mistakes. You think I’m joking? @Gavin 🙂 I like Its a good article but a little limited surely? Whelan and Lucey are two prominent academic bloggers ; what about Gurdgiv,, Kinsella and Coffey in economics , or Elaine Byrne in Politics, or the no doubt dozens of others in other disciplines? Comments are closed.